Stingray City Snorkeling
The MOST popular snorkel dive spot in Grand Cayman.
Wednesday 3 October 2018 06:22 GMT
While Stingray City is the single most popular snorkeling spot and a must-do experience when on Grand Cayman, most experience snorkelers come away very disappointed. Before you book your dream trip, you’ve got to have the right expectations. With over 500,000 annual snorkelers, the boat-accessed Stingray City is very, very crowded with tourists and even more crowded when cruise ships are in port. Your tour boat will have 30+ snorkelers and you can expect to see about a half dozen or more other tour boats out at Stingray City. And, the water clarity on this shallow sand bar is very low with all the people crowding around the 20 or so stingrays. For the best experience, make sure to book the earliest possible tour during clear weather when cruise ships are not in port.
Stingray City is located on the northeastern side of North Sound, which is northeast of Georgetown and east of West Bay. Since Southern Stingrays have been fed here for decades, the normally nocturnal cartilaginous fish crowd around approaching tour boats looking for handouts. The snorkeling at Stingray City is world-renowned for its upclose Southern Stingray experience. While snorkeling, you will be surrounded by other tourists and stingrays in 3-4 feet of water on a sandbar.
The only way to access Stingray City is by boat and most snorkelers use one of the dozen charter boat tour companies. When picking a tour company, find one with the earliest tour and a port close to your lodging. If possible, drive to their marina to save time. Of course, the main attraction is the Stingray City sandbar, but most companies will also stop at Coral Garden and/or Starfish Point. Coral Garden is located about 600 feet northeast of the sandbar and offers excellent snorkeling on a barrier reef in 12 foot deep water. Starfish Point is located about 2 miles to the southeast at the western end of Water Cay where there are tons of the namesake marine animals in shallow water.
At Stingray City, there are roughly 140-175 Southern Stingrays in the region but only about 20 will be present at any given time. While Southern Stingrays range from 1 to 5 feet across, the rays found at Stingray City are most the larger, hungry females which can weigh up to 125 pounds. In case you’re hand feeding these voracious rays, you don’t need to worry since they do not have any teeth. They use suction and their cartilaginous plates to extract and ingest all of their food.
Globally, there are over 300 different species of rays. Rays are similar to sharks with a skeleton made of cartilage, as opposed to bone like other fish, and are classified as Elasmobranchs. The Southern Stingray (Dasyastis Americana) is known from it barbed spine (tail) that has a venom gland which is mainly used to protect themselves from their main preditor, sharks. With their wide, flat body, they usually spend most of the daylight hours buried in the sand with only their eyes looking above. As mentioned, the Stingray City snorkeling spot is mainly frequented by females. These large females are usually pregnant between February thru September when they eat aggressively. Since the smaller males can’t compete, they have to go further away to feed. A full grown mail is only 1.5 feet across, while the females are up to 5 feet across. When the females give birth, they swim inland to the mangroves. The babies are fully developed when bord and swim away in search of food.
To reach the snorkeling on Grand Cayman Island by air, you will fly into the Owen Roberts International Airport (GCM). There are regular flights from Houston, Dallas and Miami. Once on Grand Cayman Island, the snorkeling dive sites are easily accessed by renting either a scooter or jeep, both of which are common means of transportation on the island. There is also a public bus that covers most regions of the island. When departing the Cayman Islands, there is a departure tax of $37.50USD. This tax may be included in the airline ticket, but you will want to verify in advance.
Overall, Stingray City is the 1st most popular snorkel dive spot of all 25 snorkeling dives in Grand Cayman.